The FBI raided the office, home and hotel room of President Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, on Monday and seized records there, according to the New York Times.
And now federal authorities have possession of emails and other communications exchanged between Trump and his personal lawyer, which could expose the president to further scrutiny.
Cohen is being investigated for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations, three sources told the Washington Post Monday evening.
The records taken by the federal bureau include those related to payments made to a pornographic actress known as Stormy Daniels, a woman who claims she had sex with Trump in 2006. In addition to records related to payments made to Daniels, the FBI also reportedly took copies of emails, tax records and business documents. The investigators also confiscated Cohen’s phone and computer.
The Times noted, “The seized records include communications between Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen, which would likely require a special team of agents to review because conversations between lawyers and clients are protected from scrutiny in most instances.”
Special counsel Robert Mueller issued a referral, and federal prosecutors in New York City then obtained a search warrant, according to the Times.
Cohen’s lawyer, Stephan Ryan, said the raid is “completely inappropriate and unnecessary.”
The Times reported, “The search does not appear to be directly related to Mr. Mueller’s investigation, but likely resulted from information he had uncovered and gave to prosecutors in New York.”
Ryan told the paper: “Today the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York executed a series of search warrants and seized the privileged communications between my client, Michael Cohen, and his clients. I have been advised by federal prosecutors that the New York action is, in part, a referral by the Office of Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.”
“The decision by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York to conduct their investigation using search warrants is completely inappropriate and unnecessary. It resulted in the Unnecessary seizure of protected attorney client communications between a lawyer and his clients. These government tactics are also wrong because Mr. Cohen has cooperated completely with all all government entities, including providing thousands of non-privileged documents to the Congress and sitting for depositions under oath.”
On Monday evening, President Trump said the FBI raid was a “disgrace.”
“I have this witch hunt constantly going on for over 12 months now or longer,” President Trump said. “It’s an attack on our country in a true sense; it’s an attack on what we all stand for.”
Trump also said Mueller’s team of investigators is “the most biased group of people.”
“Two of the potential crimes being investigated — bank fraud and wire fraud — suggest prosecutors have some reason to think Cohen may have misled bankers about why he was using particular funds or may have improperly used banks in the transfer of funds,” the Washington Post reported.
Meanwhile, Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, has said several times that he believes President Trump is setting Cohen up to take a big fall in the case of money paid to the porn actress. Cohen has said he used cash from a home-equity line of credit to pay Daniels and that Trump and his organization never reimbursed him. President Trump maintains that he didn’t know about the payment.
Avenatti tweeted a response to the FBI raid: “An enormous amount of misplaced faith has been placed on [Michael Cohen’s] shoulders … If he does not hold up, this could end very very badly for [Trump] and others. …”
Even Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera, who is a friend of Trump’s, believes this raid could be bad news for the president.
He tweeted: “Dramatic #Raid & #SearchWarrant on @MichaelCohen212 office means Feds think there is probably cause that crime(s) have been committed. Bad news for @realDonaldTrump because it’s never good to have your lawyer’s office raided. …”
Rivera also added: “Unfortunately for @realDonaldTrump – now confidential communications w his attorney @MichaelCohen212 have been seized – assuming seizure handled legally to honor attorney client privilege – then every & anything bad that’s ever been done between them can be fodder for a feast. Big Deal.”
Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano also weighed in, saying that in order for a federal judge to approve the raid, the judge must believe “that among these seized documents is evidence of crimes by Mr. Cohen or Mr. Cohen and the president.”
Napolitano explained that there’s no protected attorney-client privilege “if there’s a serious allegation of unlawful activity by the lawyer with the client.”
He continued: “There must be some evidence presented to a federal judge here in New York City sufficient to persuade that judge to sign a search warrant to permit the FBI, in broad daylight, to raid an attorney’s office – particularly when that attorney has one client and it happens to be the president of the United States.
“That evidence would have to be such as to persuade a neutral observer, the federal judge, that it is more likely than not that among these seized documents is evidence of crimes by Mr. Cohen or Mr. Cohen and the president.”
The Washington Post explained that federal prosecutors would have been required to get approval from Justice Department officials before conducting the raid.
“That means the acting U.S. attorney in Manhattan, Geoffrey S. Berman, who was appointed to his role by [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions in January, as well as Justice Department officials in Washington, probably signed off,” the Post noted.